1851: Spirit and Voice

Myseum of Toronto presents a theatrical and playful revisiting of the 1851 North American Convention of Coloured Freemen on February 17 and 24.

Posted January 31, 2022

Myseum of Toronto shares the stories of Toronto, through culture and connection, from our past to our future. Our programs and experiences connect audiences to each other, and to the urgent and relevant issues and ideas of our world.

The upcoming program, 1851: Spirit & Voice, is presented in partnership with Soulpepper Theatre and the Ontario Black History Society. It invites attendees to step into a fictionalized digital conference, where present-day hosts are visited by ghosts of conventions past, and conversations across the centuries ensue. The virtual event explores the 1851 North American Convention of Coloured Freemen, which many Torontians and Canadians have no idea took place in their own backyard.

It blends contemporary Black experiences with those of the historical abolitionists who led the movement, advocating for the safety and future of Black people in North America. Multi-dimensional and whimsical, the event addresses historic debates about settling in Canada, 19th-century journalism, education, and segregation, and the characters share their thoughts on 21st-century anti-Black racism.

Attendees will act as delegates of the conference, experiencing and participating in the drama that unfolds. Then, they will view a talk—Safety, Glass Ceilings and Feminism—by Dr. Naila Keleta-Mae, followed by a live question and answer period with Natasha Henry, President of the Ontario Black History Society, playwright Luke Reece, and Dr. Keleta-Mae.

Written by Luke Reece and directed by Lisa Karen Cox, with a cast featuring Amaka Umeh, Cameron Grant, Daren A. Herbert, Emerjade Simms, Kaleb Alexander, and Sophia Walker.

We are offering two presentations of the same virtual event, the first on February 17 and the second on February 24, from 7 to 8pm. Learn more about 1851: Spirit and Voice and register for the February 17 event or the February 24 event.

1851: Spirit & Voice is made possible with the generous support of the Estate of Mary Ann Marshall, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Ontario.

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